Santa Tecla

Children from Santa Tecla, El Salvador
Children draw at our SOS Village in Santa Tecla
The capital of the department of La Libertad in central El Salvador, Santa Tecla has a population of around 120 000. Almost 90% of the department live in urban areas, of which 40% are migrants from other parts of the country.

Gang violence means that Santa Tecla has a higher death rate now than it did during the civil war. Poverty rates are very high and children join gangs for protection and a semblance of safety.

Widespread violence leaves lives in danger

Two gangs run much of the city. Salvatrucha and Mara 18 have made some neighbourhoods extremely unsafe for those without gang connections. Children are drawn to gangs for the sense of family and security they offer. Gang members usually come from impoverished families and rural areas where unemployment is a major issues.

The gangs, known locally as Maras, are financed by drug trafficking and arms trading, and are often international in scale. Gangsters are subject to strict codes of conduct, and breaking the rules can have very serious consequences.

A young person joining a gang will live an average of three years after joining. The death rate in the city is now higher than during the civil war that ravaged the country over 20 years ago. Young people are the victims of 90% of murders committed in Central America; the majority due to gang violence.

Safe alternatives allow children a better future

We have worked in Santa Tecla for over 30 years. During our time in Santa Tecla, we have seen a transition from traditional poverty-related problems to those of crime and violence. Gang life often appears to be the only option for children in Santa Tecla, so it is important to intervene at an early age. Helping families, especially single mothers, cope with difficult circumstances is the best way to help.

Child from Santa Tecla, El Salvador
Dressing up in Santa Tecla

What we do in Santa Tecla

We help stop children from leaving the care of their parents. Our social centre offers daycare and child-minding so parents can work to provide a safe, nurturing environment for their children

For children unable to live with their parents, our SOS Children's Village offers five family homes run with the love and care of SOS mothers. Children attend school in the local community, forming links that will serve them long into the future.

We also provide support for young mothers and their children at a dedicated house. An experienced SOS mother helps the young women with the daily care of their children, ensuring that they are well cared for. The mothers are able to attend a special programme at the school which means they are able to continue with their education and have the chance of building a better future for themselves and their children. 

As children grow up, they need greater independence. SOS youth homes provide shared housing in Santa Tecla where young people live while they attend vocational training or further education.

We protect Santa Tecla's most disadvantaged children from violence and a life of crime. We work to provide children with a safe, secure family life and the opportunities to flourish. Please help us. Sponsor a child.


Helping a child with SOS Children is easy: A child sponsorship gives a child food, medical care, education and a loving family.